Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Musings on my grandmother

I am officially on university holidays until the beginning of March! Bliss! Second year is done. I study medieval history, which I love, but it will be nice not to have divide my brain between medieval politics and crafty stuff for a while. It also means I'll be able to finish a lot more projects, as well as blog about them.

 To start, I thought I'd talk a bit about one of my main holiday goals; to get my sewing area fixed up. I currently have to play nimble footed hopscotch to get through, the reason being earlier this year, I inherited my grandmother's sewing room. Basically, I owe all of my sewing I have done over the years to my grandma.

She grew up during the Depression, and after finishing school early, she worked for fifteen years at David Jones (Australia's biggest department store) as a sample machinist, where she learnt dressmaking. When she had her own family she sewed to support them; often wedding dresses. She would sew for the entire bridal party, including the mother of the bride. The last wedding dress, which she made for my Mum, was exquisite. She also made dresses for her four grand daughters when we were younger, perfectly hand smocked, which I now have packed away for my future children.

Seventeen years ago she moved from her property into a retirement village, and it was here she took up patchwork, which she excelled at, Her output was prolific. She taught me to sew around this time. I cannot remember how it all started; I cannot remember not being able to sew. When I was around nine, she paid for me to go to patchwork classes at our local patchwork shop, which I went to every week for ten years. I can  never thank her enough for doing that for me; what I learnt there, and was able to make was so valuable. I continued to sew with her as well though, and she taught me English paper piecing, a great love of mine, as well as letting me raid her sewing room as much as I wanted to. She loves the fact that I sew, as I'm the only one in the family that's taken it up after her. She praises and compliments me all the time, but woe betide if I've left my threads uncut, or my points don't exactly match..... She is the most insane perfectionist I have ever met, and in many ways I am very grateful I am teaching myself dressmaking, and not her.

She hasn't sewn for a number of years now, perhaps five. At the time we thought it was because her arthritis was really bad, and she couldn't bear to not be able to carry out the extremely intricate work she used to be able of, but now we are wondering if a lot o it was to do with her Alzheimers when it would have been in its early stages. It's so sad that she stopped, and she hates being idle, never watches TV, and read one book in her entire life.

Earlier this year we had to move her into a hostel, and she was delighted that I'd be taking all her sewing supplies. There It's an incredible stash, one dating back decades, and full of half made projects (many which I am planning to complete) notions, sample tucks from blouses she made for my mum thirty years ago, insertion, baby dress patterns etc. When we were moving she was so concerned about how messy her drawers were, to which I had to reply "your buttons are in colour coordinated jars"

When I see her, I take my sewing, and we fuss over it together, and it's this lovely bond that we both share. She still bugs me about my points, and loves to hear what I'm up to, and my sewing plans but she has hardly any recollection that she ever sewed, and I'm constantly attempting to jog her memeory, that she taught he all this, and she was much better than I will ever hope to be.

These holidays I want to get everything ordered, merge her stash with what my Mum and I already had, and start sewing my way through it. What she's left me is this great sewing legacy, and I want to be able to share it with her.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Three Dresses from Simplicity 2444

It's been a while from my last post! I have been busy finishing university for the semester, and now classes are over, I have a bit more sewing time, and some pictures of my progress to show!

When I began trawling the internet for inspiration to launch myself into dressmaking,I kept on coming across Simplicity 2444. I loved the pattern for it's versatility, and its very 1950's silhouette; dresses with defined waists very much suit me.

I currently have three renditions of this dress on the go, all in varying stages of completion. The plan is to finish them ll within the next few weeks, and I am having some sewing time soon with a good friend, who is going to show me how to put in the zips.

Dress One: The Red Retro Dress
This dress is very retro shaped with the boat neck and sleeves, that once hemmed will be about halfway down to my elbow. It's my first dress, and my first time putting in sleeves, and although it took a few attempts, they ended up sitting really well, and they fit beautifully.
I chose to put in the long sleeves, as I want this dress to be one that could be worn year round. In winter I'm going to pair it with a pair of red stockings and my red wool coat. All it needs to finish it off is the zip, neck facings, and the hems.

Dress Two: The Two Tone Collar Dress
i wouldn't exactly call this dress vintage or retro, but I'm really excited for how it's going to turn out. I found the fabric at a fabric market sale for $4 and was drawn to how unusual it was. Knowing it would be a squeeze to get a whole dress out of it, and wanting to try something a little new I am making the cape collar option from Simplicity 2444. The skirt and collar are going to be in the purple fabric, whilst the bodice will be in a plain black cotton. The picture is only of one half of the skirt back; I made up the skirt pieces over the weekend, but only bought the bodice fabric today, and then washed it, so it hasn't been cut or made up yet.

Dress Three: The Feminine Vintage Dress
I feel happy every time I see this fabric. I found it cheap at a fabric stall and instantly bought about 3.5m. And I now have enough left over to make a bag. I'm using the same style as my red dress, but using the cap sleeves option. As it's such a light coloured print, I can't really see myself wearing it in winter. It's half constructed, but for cutting it out yesteray afternoon, it's been rather quick progress. Th intetnion is to find some lovely wide lace to go around the armholes, and the bottom hem.
 Again, a bit of a close up, so you can see the fabric. I really love how I got the middle two pleats to cross over

And I have taught myself how to French seam! I think I am in love... I even managed to French seam the sides, including the pockets.

That's what I have on the go! I promise to post pictures of the dresses being worn once they are finished, with a little more detail.

What is everyone else making?

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Here in Australia it's coming into summer rather quickly. Only mid October, and we are having days in the mid 30's C, and the next few days are going to be a heatwave. Bushfire season has also started with a vengeance; there's a massive fire raging not too far from where I live that has already claimed 200 houses. Though the smoke is pretty heavy, I am very blessed not to be in danger, though many people I know have lost everything.

I also hate the heat. Hate it. Balmy spring weather is the top of my comfort zone. If the weather calls for thick stockings, a coat and scarf, all the better. Australian summers are the worst, and this one seems set to be a shocker.

Now, what does this have to do with my sewing? A lot actually; I've been thinking about what I'll be doing craft wise over the uni holidays this morning.

Firstly, I've heard of a quilt drive that the Salvation Army is doing for people that lost their houses in the bush fire, and I'm hoping this can be something I can get involved in. I have time over the next months, and I have a lot of fabric.

More personally, if this is going to be a hot summer, I need to stock my wardrobe with cotton, and a lot of it. I find t-shirts too stuffy for most of the summer months, and so live in cotton blouses. As I start to plan my sewing projects, it's going to involve a lot of cotton dresses, and a lot of cotton blouses.

Does any one know any good vintage like summer blouse patterns? I'm currently eyeing off Colette Pattern's Sencha blouse, but any other suggestions would be very welcome

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Two Vintage Parties; Two Dresses

This Saturday I had two birthday parties to go to, both with a vintage dress up theme, which I always find a  lot of fun.

The first party was a very casual 1950's picnic.

I wore a "new" dress of mine. My Mum had bought it many years ago at the op-shop, and then I found it the other month in my grandma's mending pile. One sewn shoulder seam later, and I had a fantastic summer dress. It's Laura Ashley fabric, and is really cool; perfect for a picnic on an extremely hot day. my one thought with this dress is that it needs a circular skirt petticoat to give in a bit more shape. There is so much fabric in that skirt, and it would look great if it were standing out.

My second party was a 1920's dessert night. my dress for this party was a very interesting find from an op-shop in Newtown (for those who do not know, Newtown is the student suburb of Sydney, and is full of op-shops, strange vintage shops, and Thai restaurants) the dropped waist was perfect for a 1920's night.

It was a lot of fun deciding what I was going to wear to these parties, and I hope next time I have a vintage style party, I will be able to wear something I've made myself.

Thursday, 10 October 2013


When I think about my approach to life, there are two things that stand out.
Firstly, my attitude is one of simplicity. I hate fuss and  excessive expenditure.
Secondly my style is excessively vintage. I love vintage style dresses, doilies and fabric/
And I think these two aspects go together.
One of my aims in life is to live simply in a style that I love. I'm an accomplished patch worker, and am starting dressmaking. I hate shopping, but will happily spend hours opshopping. I'm trying to expand my cooking repertoire, and I'm starting to dream of how I will one day create a very vintage DIY home.

When I'm not concocting ways to work my way through my ever growing fabric stash, I study a Bachelor of Arts in History and Medieval Studies. 

I love: good novels, writing, thinking deep thoughts, old houses, spending time alone, crisp, cold winter days and long train commutes to unversity.